May 9

There are 2 entries for this date: Billy Joel Megan Hunt

    Billy Joel

    Billy Joel

    On this date in 1949, William Martin “Billy” Joel was born in the Bronx, N.Y. Joel grew up on Long Island, where he began to play piano as a young child. He joined his first band, the Echoes, as a teenager, and gained a reputation for musical performance. His musical career started in high school when he joined a popular local band called the Hassles. Joel never graduated from high school because of the time he dedicated to his musical career.

    He recorded his first two albums, “The Hassles” and “Hour of the Wolf” with the Hassles, before striking out on his own. After becoming dissatisfied with Family Productions — the label that produced his first solo album, “Cold Spring Harbor” — Joel moved to Los Angeles where he worked at piano bars before signing with Columbia Records in 1973. That year, Joel recorded his breakout album, “Piano Man.” The single, “Piano Man,” became Joel’s first hit, making it to number 20 on the charts.

    Joel wrote and performed pop and rock music in a variety of styles and on a variety of subjects throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with many hits including “Just The Way You Are” and “Only the Good Die Young” on 1977’s “The Stranger,” and “Uptown Girl” on the album “An Innocent Man” (1983). “Uptown Girl” was famously written about his then-girlfriend, model Christie Brinkley. The two married in 1985, and their daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, was born later that same year. Brinkley and Joel divorced in 1994. Alexa has followed in her father’s footsteps as a pianist, singer and songwriter. In 1993 he turned to classical composition and performance and has not published pop songs since then.

    Joel has won six Grammys: Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “Just the Way You Are” (1978), Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance Male for “52nd Street” (1979), Best Pop Vocal Performance Male for “Glass Houses” (1980), and in 1991 received the Grammy Legend honor. Joel received numerous Grammy nominations between 1978 and 2002. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. 

    Howard Stern: Are you the type of guy that believes in karma and things like that?
    Billy Joel: Yes … well, not in the religious or spiritual sense, I just, you know, that’s how things seem to work out.
    Stern: Are you religious, do you believe in a God?
    Joel: No.
    Stern: You don’t.
    Joel: I’m an atheist.

    —Joel interview on “The Howard Stern Show" (Nov. 16, 2010)
    Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski; photo by Everett Collection, Shutterstock.com

    Megan Hunt

    Megan Hunt

    On this date in 1986, political activist and entrepreneur Megan Catherine Hunt was born in Blair, Neb., to Mary Beth (née Arts) and Dan Hunt, respectively a homemaker and president of a telecommunications supply company. Her parents “instilled in her the value of hard work, determination, and the importance of public service.” She was raised Catholic. (meganfornebraska.com)

    She started attending Dana College in Blair during her senior year of high school as a Presidential Scholar. After earning a B.A. in intercultural communication and German in 2008, she enrolled in the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s political communication master’s program and coached Blair High School forensics for four years.

    Hunt founded Hello Holiday, a boutique and e-commerce company supporting independent fashion designers. It was known for its “Girls Support Girls” messaging and fundraising collaborations with local nonprofits. She decided to run for office after she got involved in a grassroots effort to update the sex education curriculum in Omaha Public Schools in 2015.

    She won election in 2018 to Nebraska’s 49-member unicameral legislature with 64% of the vote in an Omaha district. Legislators are called senator, serve without party affiliation or caucuses and make $12,000 plus per diem annually. Senators are limited to two consecutive terms. She was reelected in 2022 by a margin of 69% to 31%. An opponent during the primary season who worked at A Latere Academy, a Christian home-school program, called herself a “Bible-believing Christian” on her campaign site.

    Hunt said she broke barriers as the first “out” LGBTQ+ state senator, as a single working parent and as an atheist. “I was really afraid that my colleagues would stereotype me or be hostile toward me because of who I am, but I was wrong. I have found every one of my colleagues amenable, willing to work with me, and I have made several close friends with colleagues who are ideologically very different from me.” (State Innovation Exchange, Jan. 28, 2021)

    She describes herself as being on the “far left” of the political spectrum and led a filibuster in April 2022 to defeat a draconian anti-abortion bill. She was among the key opponents of a bill to give full tax credit on donations to private school scholarships, citing the number of religious schools that would benefit, including schools that discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth. “It’s not appropriate for public money, tax dollars, to fund that type of bigotry and discrimination,” Hunt said. (KMTV, Jan. 12, 2022)

    In an October 2022 OnlySky interview, she said she’s “a public servant who happens to be an atheist, not a lawmaker who wants to use her platform to promote her personal views.” She wants more emphasis on candidate recruitment and building a pipeline of people who are rational, reasonable and evidence-focused. “Representatives who can actually understand what normal people go through and who aren’t running for office just because they’re motivated by some extremist view or some conspiracy theory, because that’s what we’re seeing more and more nationwide.”

    After closing Hello Holiday in 2019, Hunt’s inner entrepreneur kicked in a year later when she, working with her son Ash, started Five Nine, a specialty shop that sells stationery, home goods and practical art built on a belief in the beauty of everyday objects.

    She was the recipient in 2022 of an FFRF Champion of the First Amendment award, which she accepted at the national convention in San Antonio. Her mentor, former Sen. Ernie Chambers, received the award in 2006. She publicly called the abortion ban a “church bill” sponsored by Christian religious extremists. “Her impassioned remarks and filibustering were credited with helping to kill the bill. Thanks to her activism, abortion is still legal in Nebraska,” FFRF said.

    “I’ve never been a person of faith, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to just be who I am.”

    —Hunt, commenting on FFRF's "Ask an Atheist" about making her nonbelief public (May 4, 2022)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn

Freedom From Religion Foundation